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On Some Pictures Lately Exhibited by By Henry James

 

THE standing quarrel between the painters and the littérateurs will probably never be healed. Writers will continue to criticise pictures from the literary point of view, and painters will continue to denounce their criticisms from the free-spoken atmosphere of the studio. Each party will, in a manner, to our sense, be in the right. If it is very proper that the critics should watch the painters, it is equally proper that the painters should watch the critics. We frankly confess it to be our own belief that even an indifferent picture is generally worth more than a good criticism; but we approve of criticism nevertheless. It may be very superficial, very incompetent, very brutal, very pretentious, very preposterous; it may cause an infinite amount of needless chagrin and gratuitous error; it may even blast careers and break hearts; but we are inclined to think that if it were suppressed at a stroke, the painters of our day would sadly miss it, decide that on the whole it had its merits, and at last draw up a petition to have it resuscitated. it makes them more patrons than it mars; it helps them to reach the public and the public to reach them. It talks a good deal of nonsense, but even its nonsense is a useful force. It keeps the question of art before the world, insists upon its importance, and makes it always in order. Many a picture has been bought, not because its purchaser either understood it or relished it—-being incapable, let us say, of either of these subtle emotions—-but because, for good or for ill, it had been made the subject of a certain amount of clever writing “in the papers.” It may be said that not only does the painter have to live by his pictures, but in many cases the critic has to as well, and it is therefore in the latter gentleman's interest to foster the idea that pictures are indispensable things.

Of course what most painters urge is not that criticism is per se offensive, but that the criticism of the uninitiated, of those who mix things up, who judge sentimentally, fantastically, from the outside, by literary standards, is the impertinent and injurious thing. Painters, we think, complain of this so-called “literary” criticism more than any other artists—-more than musicians, actors, or architects. There is probably more unmeaning verbiage, in the guise of criticism, poured forth upon music than upon all the other arts combined, and yet the melodious brotherhood take their injury, apparently, in a tolerably philosophic fashion. They seem to feel that it is about as broad as it is long, and that as they profit on the one side by the errors of the public, there is a rough reason in their losing, or even suffering, on the other. People in general had rather not take music at all than take it hard. The case is very much the same with the visitors of the galleries and studios. If they always had to show chapter and verse for their impressions and judgments, they would soon declare that the play is not worth the candle, that art is meant for one's entertainment; that a picture is a thing to take or to leave. “If one didn't look at you imaginatively,” they say in many a case, “if one didn't lend you something of one's own, pray where would you be?” Art, at the present day, is being steadily and rapidly vulgarised (we do not here use the word in the invidious sense); it appeals to greater numbers of people than formerly, and the gate of communication has had to be widened, perhaps in a rather barbarous fashion. The day may come round again when we shall all judge pictures as unerringly as the burghers of Florence in 1500; though it will hardly do so, we fear, before we have, like the Florentines, a native Michel Angelo or an indigenous Andrea del Sarto to exercise our wits upon. Meanwhile, as we are expected to exhibit a certain sensibility to the innumerable productions of our own period, it will not be amiss to excuse us for sometimes attempting to motive our impressions, as the French say, upon considerations not exclusively pictorial. Some of the most brilliant painters of our day, indeed, are themselves more literary than their most erratic critics; we have invented, side by side, the arts of picturesque writing and of erudite painting. When Fortuny painted a picture and Théophile Gautier wrote an account of it, it was hard to say which was the painter and which the writer. Two such diverse painters as Gérôme and Corot, though they may sometimes have complained of the public disposition to interpret them, to make them prove something, to refine upon their meaning, yet would have thriven but ill if they had not had this same fanciful, bookish, ingenious, dilettante public to appeal to. The latest phase of the French school—-that little group of Gallicised Spaniards of which Fortuny and Zamacois were the most brilliant ornaments—-is founded upon a literary taste, upon a smattering of culture, upon a vague, light diffusion of the historic sense. We may say the same of the cleverest English painters of the day, several of whom are so exquisite—-Mr. Burne Jones, Mr. Rossetti, Mr. Leighton. Mr. Burne Jones paints, we may almost say, with a pen; there is something extremely rare and interesting in his combination of two distinct lines of culture, each in such a high and special degree. These gentlemen's pictures always seem as if, to be complete, they needed to have a learned sonnet, of an explanatory sort, affixed to the frame; and if, in the absence of the sonnet, the critical observer ventures to improvise one, as effective as his learning will allow, and to be pleased or displeased according as the picture corresponds to it, there is a certain justification for his temerity. If some of the clever painters of our day are literary, we do not mean that they are all so; it would be in our power to point out several exceptions; but the generalization is correct enough to warrant us in saying further, that when the average of ability is highest the critic is allowed the widest range in his commentary. Few people, we supposes will deny that the cleverest painters and the most vivacious critics are to be found together at the present hour in Paris, where their mutual feuds and imprecations and heart-burnings are often a tolerably unprofitable spectacle. Yet, on the whole, we imagine the French plastic artist who is conscious of talent finds it sufficiently easy to regard his literary confrère, if not as a positive blessing, at least as a necessary evil.

We have uttered these few reflections rather because we had had them for some time in mind than because they are in especial harmony with our impressions of the exhibition just closing at the Academy of Design. We do not claim the distinction of needing them as a weapon either of defence or of offence. Few of the painters represented at the Academy did much in the way of winning from us an expenditure of fancy and ingenuity. The most striking pictures in the exhibition were perhaps those of Mr. Homer; and this artist certainly can rarely have had occasion to complain of being judged with too much subtlety. Before Mr. Homer's little barefoot urchins and little girls in calico sun-bonnets, straddling beneath a cloudless sky upon the national rail fence, the whole effort of the critic is instinctively to contract himself, to double himself up, as it were, so that he can creep into the problem and examine it humbly and patiently, if a trifle wonderingly. Mr. Homer's pictures, in other words, imply no explanatory sonnets; the artist turns his back squarely and frankly upon literature. In this he may be said to be typical of the general body of his fellow artists. There were the painters who, like Mr. Edgar Ward and Mr. Thayer, desire to be simply and nakedly pictorial, and very fairly succeed; and there were the others who, like Mr. H. P. Gray, with the “Birth of our Flag,” and Mr. Eastman Johnson, with “Milton Dictating to his Daughters,” desire to be complex, suggestive, literary, and very decidedly fail. There is one artist—-a complex and suggestive one if there ever was—-we mean Mr. John La Farge—-whose pictures are always a challenge to the imagination and the culture of the critic. When Mr. La Farge gives himself a largely suggestive subject to handle, he is certain to let it carry him very far; and if there is an occasional disparity between the effort and the total achievement, one's sense of it is lost in those delicate minor intimations, that subtle, intellectual detail, in which the artist's genius is so abundant. In his contribution to the present exhibition, however, the disparity of which we speak is perhaps exceptionally marked. Mr. La Farge's “Cupid and Psyche” is a work of an even overwrought suggestiveness; but the fugitive, recondite element in the artist's fancy has, to our sense, been unduly reflected in the execution—-in something tormented, as the French say. something which fails to explain itself, in the tone of the work, and, in places, in the drawing. What we here say of the Academy we may extend to the annual Water-Colour Exhibition, which almost immediately preceded it. The Water-Colour Exhibition was, relatively speaking, a brighter show than that made by the Academicians; but the best pictures there (contributed by native artists at least) were the simplest—-those which attempted least. There too Mr. Homer was in force; and in his little raw aquarelles, as well as in several specimens of the infinitely finer and more intellectual, but still narrow and single-toned work of Miss Fidelia Bridges, we found perhaps, among the American performances, our best entertainment. The most interesting things, however, were not American. These consisted of some four elaborately finished pictures by Mrs. Spartali Stillman, who works in England, under the shadow of Messrs. Burne Jones and Rossetti; and some dozen sketchier performances, of a very different order of merit, with an Italian signature, and the invariable “Roma” scrawled in the corner. In Mrs. Stillman's pictures there is something very exquisite, in spite of a certain lingering amateurishness in the execution. This lady is a really profound colourist; but the principal charm of her work is the intellectual charm—-that thing which, when it exists, always seems more precious than other merits, and indeed makes us say that it is the only thing in a work of art which is deeply valuable. Imagination, intellectual elevation, cannot be studied, purchased, acquired; whereas everything else can; even, in a degree, the colourist's faculty. Mrs. Stillman has inherited the traditions and the temper of the original pre-Raphaelites, about whom we hear nowadays so much less than we used; but she has come into her heritage in virtue of natural relationship. She is a spontaneous, sincere, naïf pre-Raphaelite.

In the little band of Roman watercolorists whose productions have lately been thrown in such profusion upon the market, there is certainly little enough intellectual elevation; and yet there are several good reasons for enjoying their pictures. At the same moment that the Water-Colour Exhibition was going on, a number of these were also placed on view by Messrs. Goupil. We remember that when we first glanced at them, on going in, we turned away from them with a certain impatience and disgust; then, after half an hour's wandering, and contemplation of their companions, we again gave them our attention, and found we liked them decidedly better. Everything is relative in this world, and in a dull company one may find one's self smiling at a mild joke. These little Roman studies of ugly women in fantastic arrangements of the costume of the last century, of grotesque comedy figures, in attitudes more or less trivial and licentious, painted with a coarse, brilliant, liquid brush, executed with extreme rapidity, baptised as you please, and dedicated to the public which cultivates a taste for old china of the debased periods, have at least a certain play, a certain deviltry, a certain positive recognition of the fact that a picture is, for those who own it and look at it, essentially a diversion. Levity and triviality could hardly go further, in a certain sense; and yet they are redeemed by one's feeling that behind the talent displayed there is a great frankness of temperament. In this point this little Roman school of light painters seems to us vastly superior to that multitudinous host of French and Belgian artists who for so many years have been inundating us with solemn representations of beflounced ladies tying their bonnet ribbons and warming their slipper toes. These things have always been elaborately inane; the reiterated sight of one, for six months, on the parlour wall, is a circumstance to imperil the most tranquil nerves and embitter the most philosophic temper. But for these little. Romans, whose names we forget, it seems to us we should always have a certain friendliness; they have, themselves, so much good humour. Some of them paint, too, with extraordinary cleverness. The model, for the most part, is the same stale, half-rakish, half-dowdy damsel, pretending not to beauty, but at most to an exhilarating ugliness; the draperies, too, the brocaded satins and the embroidered crape shawls, and the mantillas, and slippers and fans, look as if they were serving many a turn and being tossed from hand to hand; but the pose is so knowing, the composition so expressive, the lustre of the stuffs and the liquidity of the colour so striking, that you are quite willing to say that there is a small pleasure as well as a great pleasure in the arts, and that this is a very pretty case of the former. Nothing can be more charming, as a mere vehicle, than water colours as these frivolous Romans handle them. In clearness, brightness, richness, fluidity, they leave nothing to be desired.

It must be confessed, however, that all this is very well chiefly so long as one doesn't talk too much about it. And yet if we said that the pictures at the Academy offered us an essentially worthier theme, we should be afraid of saying more than we can make good. Mr. Gray's picture hung in the place of honour, and, as regards size, was the most considerable performance in the room. Though an ambitious picture, this struck us as a not especially felicitous one; it is a singular congregation of pièces rapportées. One has a curious sense of having seen the separate parts before, in some happier association. The eagle and the flag (which are rather awkwardly and heavily contrived) possess, indeed, the merit of originality; but the other things have each an irritating air of being a kind of distorted memory of something else. The young woman's body, her arms, her head, the landscape behind her, the sky, are very old friends; but somehow, on this occasion, they are not looking their best. It describes Mr. Gray's picture not unjustly, we think, to say it is a superficial pastiche of Titian. This is especially true of the management of colour. The artist has contrived very cleverly to recall Titians deep-hued azures, to a casual glance; but at the end of a moment you perceive that this sumptuous undertaking rests on a very slender expenditure. Mr. Eastman Johnson, whom we mentioned just now in conjunction with Mr. Gray, is a painter who has constant merits, in which we may seek compensation for his occasional errors. His “Milton and his Daughters” is a very decided error, and yet it contains some very pretty painting. Like Mr. Gray, Mr. Johnson here seems to us to have attempted to paint an expensive picture cheaply. To speak of the work at all kindly, we must cancel the Milton altogether and talk only about the daughters. By thus defilializing these young ladies, and restoring them to their proper sphere as pretty Americans of the year 1875, one is enabled to perceive that their colouring is charming, and that though the sister with her back turned is rather flat, rather vaguely modelled, they form a very picturesque and richly-lighted group. One of Mr. Johnson's other pictures, a young countrywoman buying a paper of pins from an old peddler, is a success almost without drawbacks. Mr. Johnson has the merit of being a real painter—-of loving, for itself, the slow, caressing process of rendering an object. Of all our artists, he has most coquetry of manipulation. We don't know that he is ever really wasteful or trivial, for he has extreme discretion of touch; but it occasionally seems as if he took undue pleasure in producing effects that suggest a sort of lithographic stippling. The head of the woman, pretty as it is, in the picture just mentioned, is a case in point; her dress, and the wall beyond it, are even more so. But the old hawker, with his battered beaver hat, his toothless jaws and stubbly chin, is charmingly painted. The painting of his small wares and of the stove near him, with the hot white bloom, as it were, upon the iron, has a Dutch humility of subject, but also an almost Dutch certainty of touch. For the same artist's lady in a black velvet dressing-gown, fastening in an earring, we did not greatly care, in spite of the desirable mahogany buffet against which she is leaning. Mr. Johnson will never be an elegant painter—-or at least a painter of elegance. He is essentially homely.

Mr. Bridgeman's interior of an American circus in France was painted in that country, with a brio intensified possibly by national pride. It is an extremely clever little composition, and the most elaborate figure-piece in the exhibition. The group of the rider of the two horses abreast, with the young lady kicking out a robust leg from her aërial station on his thigh, holds together, moves together, with remarkable felicity. The diffused yellow daylight under the tent, falling on the scattered occupants of the benches beyond the ring, and upon the various accessories, is very cleverly rendered, though much of the painting is rather thin and flat. The picture dates, we observe, from 1870, when it appeared with success, we believe, in the Paris Salon. We hope that it does not sound harsh to express a regret that Mr. Bridgeman should not now be showing us a work subsequently composed, in which we should find all the performance of which this was the promise. Of Mr. Homer's three pictures we have spoken, but there would be a good deal more to say about them; not, we mean, because they are particularly important in themselves, but because they are peculiarly typical. A frank, absolute, sincere expression of any tendency is always interesting, even when the tendency is not elevated or the individual not distinguished. Mr. Homer goes in, as the phrase is, for perfect realism, and cares not a jot for such fantastic hair-splitting as the distinction between beauty and ugliness. He is a genuine painter; that is, to see, and to reproduce what he sees, is his only care; to think, to imagine, to select, to refine, to compose, to drop into any of the intellectual tricks with which other people sometimes try to eke out the dull pictorial vision—-all this Mr. Homer triumphantly avoids. He not only has no imagination, but he contrives to elevate this rather blighting negative into a blooming and honourable positive. He is almost barbarously simple, and, to our eye, he is horribly ugly; but there is nevertheless something one likes about him. What is it? For ourselves, it is not his subjects. We frankly confess that we detest his subjects—-his barren plank fences, his glaring, bald, blue skies, his big, dreary, vacant lots of meadows, his freckled, straight-haired Yankee urchins, his flat-breasted maidens, suggestive of a dish of rural doughnuts and pie, his calico sun-bonnets, his flannel shirts, his cowhide boots. He has chosen the least pictorial features of the least pictorial range of scenery and civilization; he has resolutely treated them as if they were pictorial, as if they were every inch as good as Capri or Tangiers; and, to reward his audacity, he has incontestably succeeded. It makes one feel the value of consistency; it is a proof that if you will only be doggedly literal, though you may often be unpleasing, you will at least have a stamp of your own. Mr. Homer has the great merit, moreover, that he naturally sees everything at one with its envelope of light and air. He sees not in lines, but in masses, in gross, broad masses. Things come already modelled to his eye. If his masses were only sometimes a trifle more broken, and his brush a good deal richer—-if it had a good many more secrets and mysteries and coquetries, he would be, with his vigorous way of looking and seeing, even if fancy in the matter remained the same dead blank, an almost distinguished painter. In its suggestion of this blankness of fancy the picture of the young farmer flirting with the pie-nurtured maiden in the wheat field is really an intellectual curiosity. The want of grace, of intellectual detail, of reflected light, could hardly go further; but the picture was its author's best contribution, and a very honest, and vivid, and manly piece of work. Our only complaint with it is that it is damnably ugly! We spoke just now of Mr. La Farge, and it occurs to us that the best definition of Mr. Homer to the initiated would be, that he is an elaborate contradiction of Mr. La Farge. In the Palace of Art there are many mansions!

In the Academy, also, there are many portraits. Some of them are fabulously bad, several respectable, and two or three very clever. The one of which we have retained the pleasantest memory is that excellent figure of a young girl in white, by Mrs. Loop, for which every one evidently feels a great friendship. We do not mean to be offensive when we say the picture was, in its cool discretion of manner, remarkably good for a woman. The model, to begin with, was delightful, and the picture was, in its way, thoroughly complete; notably so, for instance, in the excellent rendering, the drawing, the modelling of the young girl's charming smile. To paint a marked smile which does not speedily become to the spectator a rigid, importunate grin, is a proof of extreme ability. There were two very clever things sent from Munich by American artists—-Mr. Chase and Mr. David Neal. Mr. Chase's “Dowager" is an old lady (an admirable model) in a sixteenth century coif and bodice, whose leathery, wrinkled, bloodless complexion and swollen veins are very picturesquely and yet very soberly painted. Mr. Neal has even more cleverness, but we don't know that he has more verity. His very handsome person in a sixteenth century ruff struck us as hardly more than a particularly happy example of regular school ability. They are evidently very clever in Munich, and we are sure that they could teach a less gifted student than Mr. Neal to turn out an article not sensibly less brilliant than this lady in the ruff. (He must be certain, indeed, to give his lady the ruff, that is an essential point.) Have they not perhaps similarly taught Mr. Neal, with his brilliant gifts, to do a trifle less well than he might on a deeper line? But these are mysteries.

We choose a wrong moment moreover for harbouring evil thoughts of the Munich school, for we have lately had evidence that a great talent of the most honourable sort may flourish beneath its maternal wing. The good people of Boston have recently been flattering themselves that they have discovered an American Velasquez. In the rooms of the Boston Art Club hang some five remarkable portraits by Mr. Frank Duveneck of Cincinnati. This young man, who is not yet, we believe, in his twenty-fifth year, took his first steps in painting in the Bavarian capital, and it is hardly hyperbolical to say that these steps were, for a mere lad, giant strides. He came back a while since, if we are not mistaken, to his native city, where his genius was not highly appreciated, and where depressing obscurity was his portion, until aesthetic Boston held out a friendly hand. It is of course of supreme importance that Mr. Duveneck should not be talked about intemperately, though we shall be surprised if his head is not too firmly set upon his shoulders to be easily turned. We speak in reason when we say that the half dozen portraits in question have an extraordinary interest. They are all portraits of men—-and of very ugly men; they have little grace, little finish, little elegance, none of the relatively superfluous qualities. But they have a most remarkable reality and directness, and Velasquez is in fact the name that rises to your lips as you look at them. It is very evident that in so far as there is any question of Velasquez in the matter, the analogy of Mr. Duveneck's talent with that of the great Spaniard is a natural, instinctive one. His models for the pictures in Boston are far from having the Spanish stateliness of aspect or the sixteenth century .bravery of costume. One of them is a plain old agricultural character, we should say, of Quakerish rigidity and of an extremely plebeian type, seated squarely in a straw-bottomed arm-chair and staring out of the picture, at full length, with startling vividness. Another is a young man in a shabby coat and a slouched hat, holding a stump of a cigar, a fellow art student of the author, presumably—-less remarkable than the first, yet full of rough simplicity and truth. A third is ahead of a German professor, most grotesquely hideous in feature and physiognomy, looking a good deal, as to his complexion and eyeballs, as if he had just been cut down after an unpractical attempt to hang himself. There is little colour in these things save a vigorous opposition of black and white, or of shaded flesh-tints and heavy browns; yet they are strikingly solid and definite. Their great quality, we repeat, is their extreme naturalness, their unmixed, unredeemed reality. They are brutal, hard, indelicate, and as the maximum of the artists effort they would be almost melancholy; but they contain the material of an excellent foundation—-a foundation strong enough to support a very liberal structure. What does Mr. Duveneck mean to build upon it? He is most felicitously young, and time will show. We frankly confess that we shall take it hard if he fails to do something of the first degree of importance.

The Academy contained the usual proportion of landscapes, and these landscapes contained the usual proportion of mild merit. The average merit, as we say, was mild, but it was recognizable as merit. We flourish as yet decidedly more in our handling of rocks and trees and blue horizon-hills than in our dealings with heads and arms and legs. At the Academy were a great many very pretty rocks and trees, a great many charming wavelets and cloudlets. Some of the rocks were most delectable—-those, for instance, of Mr. Thomas Moran, in his picture of certain geological eccentricities in Utah. The cliffs there, it appears, are orange and pink, emerald green and cerulean blue; they look at a distance as if, in emulation of the vulgar liberties taken with the exposed strata in the suburbs of New York, they had been densely covered with bill-posters of every colour of the rainbow. Mr. Moran's picture is, in the literal sense of the word, a brilliant production. We confess it gives a rather uncomfortable wrench to our prosy preconceptions of the conduct and complexion of rocks, even in their more fantastic moods; but we remember that all this is in Utah, and that Utah is terribly far away. We cannot help wishing that Mr. Moran would try his hand at something a little nearer home, so that we might have a chance to congratulate him, with a good conscience, not only upon his brilliancy, but upon his fidelity. This is a satisfaction we were able to enjoy with regard to Mr. Jervis McEntee, the author of the landscape which most took our own individual fancy—-a pond in a little scrubby, all but leafless wood, on a grey autumn afternoon. There are some children playing on the edge of it; a sort of blurred splinter of cold sunlight is peeping out of the thick low clouds and touching the stagnant, shallow pool. It is excellent in tone; it is a genuine piece of melancholy autumn; we felt as if we were one of the children grubbing. unaesthetically in the ugly wood, breaking the lean switches, and kicking the brown leaves. There are other things which would be worth mentioning if we were attempting to speak of the Exhibition in detail. It may seem disrespectful, from a certain point of view, to allude to such performances as Mr. Bierstadt's “California in Spring” and Mr. Cropsey's “Sidney Plains” as “details”; they take up much space on the walls; but they have taken little (and even that we grudge them) in our recollections. Mr. Church had two or three pictures at the Academy—-small for him, and for him, too, rather feeble. But, in compensation, he had at the same time a large and elaborate landscape at Goupil's—-a certain “Valley of Santa Isabel,” in New Granada. We know of nothing that is a better proof of the essential impotence of criticism, in the last resort, than Mr. Church's pictures. One can't say what one means about them; the common critical formulas are too inflexible. It would be the part of wisdom perhaps to attempt and to desire to say nothing; simply to leave them to their tranquil destiny, which is apparently very honourable and comfortable. If you praise them very highly, you say more than you mean; if you denounce them, if, in vulgar parlance, you sniff at them, you say less. It is the kind of art which seems perpetually skirting the edge of something worse than itself, like a woman with a taste for florid ornaments who should dress herself in a way to make quiet people stare, and yet who should be really a very reputable person. As we looked at Mr. Church's velvety vistas and gem-like vegetation, at Goupil's, we felt honestly sorry that there was any necessity in this weary world for taking upon one's self to be a critic, for deeming it essential to a proper self-respect to be analytical. Why not accept this lovely tropic scene as a very pretty picture, and have done with it? A very pretty picture, surely, it was, and a very skilful, and laborious, and effective one. The valley of Santa Isabel melts away into the softest violet glow—-the most cunning aerial perspective. The great, heavy, yellow tropic sun sinks down into the wine-coloured mountains as if exhausted and athirst with his own prodigious heat, and his level rays come wandering forward down the mile-long gorges, and floating over the lustrous mountain lake in the middle distance, and flinging themselves in the flower-strewn grass in the foreground, in the most natural fashion in the world—-natural, we mean, when nature is in her theatrical, her demonstrative, her exhibitory moods. Certainly if we were able to handle a brush, we should not use it, in some places (especially in our mysterious, deep-toned boskages, and our rich, multitudinous leafage), exactly as Mr. Church does; but his own brush is an extremely accomplished one, and we should be poorly set to work to quarrel with the very numerous persons who admire its brilliant feats.

It is in order, in speaking of what has been visible at Goupil's (where, during the winter, there have been several noticeable things), to make some mention of a couple of pictures which for a month or two occupied the places of honour. One of these was a large composition by Mr. Boughton, our chief American representative of the fine arts, we believe, in London. In calling it a composition we speak perhaps with culpable laxity. It was entitled, at any rate, “The Heir-Presumptive,” and it is certain that it had a little boy in the middle, taking a walk in an ancestral park with his governess. Behind him was a Negro servant leading a white pony, before him was an old labourer doffing his hat. The little boy, the governess, the servant, the pony, and the labourer were figures of a fatally meagre execution, and sadly at loss to acquit themselves of their pictorial duties, in the midst of this huge expanse of empty canvas. They looked like the little manikins which a landscape painter touched into a foreground at the last moment, before his signature, maliciously magnified and trying to play at being real figures. What misguided friend or insidious enemy is it that is forever prompting Mr. Boughton to meddle with figures? His attempts in this line are painfully amateurish; his drawing, his colour, his modelling strike us as almost grotesquely weak. On the other hand, Mr. Boughton is a landscape painter of a quite exquisite temper, as this same picture showed; and it was to praise his landscape, and not to criticise his figures, that we mentioned the work. Here was a fine old English baronial chase, seen on a morning of early winter, with the huge leafless oaks standing sturdily grouped, the pale sky, with its thin yellow lights, showing through the coarse lacework of the boughs, and the damp English atmosphere making vague deposits along the brown earth and the rotting leaves. The canvas was too large for the subject, and (apart from the infelicity of the figures) the scene was a trifle vacuous and monotonous; but it had a charming touch. Looking about afterward at the usual little French landscapes on Goupil's walls, with their high average of superficial cleverness, we were not arrested in the reflection that there is something inherently superior in the English sentiment of landscape, when it has really mastered its means. It has a story to tell—-it has a mystery (sometimes very slender) to reveal. Unfortunately, it generally stammers and stumbles, and the mystery is liable to make a comical figure. It was hardly necessary to perceive that Mr. Boughton's little figures were of the cut-paper school, to relish the consummate vividness of those of Mr. Kämmerer in his “Beach at Scheveningen.” These are mostly fine ladies, from the Hague and other elegant capitals, who have drawn together their chairs on the firm sand, and, as they sit there facing the glittering, tumbling sea, let the cold northern light filter down through their tense parasols, over their very well-made dresses, their silks, their muslins, their long-gloved hands, their agreeable faces, and luxurious, idle attitudes. Mr. Kämmerer is a young Hollander, we believe, who has lately stepped into Parisian fame. There is something cold, hard, a trifle dry in his manner; but in his way he is a master. We risked an invidious comparison, just now, between the continental and the English schools, in the field of landscape; but now we feel bound to add that they order this matter, of which Mr. Kämmerer's picture is an example, vastly better in France. If one compares it with Mr. Frith's treatment of analogous subjects, one sees that the advantage of delicacy, of taste, of science is on the side of the foreign artist. We are tempted to add another word for the foreign artists—-the more so as we broke ground above upon the subject of the actual art possessions of Boston. There is now to be seen at the gallery of the Athenaeum in that city (beside the famous pictures of the Duke of Montpensier) a collection of French and Italian pictures owned by Mr. Quincy Shaw. They are worth going a distance to see. The Italian works are a beautiful Cima da Conegliano, a small but interesting Tintoretto, and a superb Paul Veronese. This last picture is a treasure,—-a triumph; a triumph, we mean especially, for American empty-handedness in this line. It is a complete and admirable specimen of the master; a broad, authentic, untarnished page from the book of Venetian glory. The French pictures are a series of Troyons and Millets; the former brilliant, but not, to our mind, particularly interesting; the latter dusky, laboured, concentrated, and of extreme interest.